The holidays can be a very difficult time for those in recovery from an addiction, and they can pose a threat to your recovery. It’s important to have a solid support system and relapse prevention strategy in place to help you avoid relapse.
Here are some relapse prevention tips to help you stay sober throughout the holidays.
What Leads to a Relapse?
There are a variety of factors that can lead a person to relapse. Relapse typically happens gradually, starting with experiencing triggers or negative emotions, and progressing to thinking about returning to drugs or alcohol.
Some common causes of relapse include:
Many people don’t have a healthy way of dealing with stress. If in the past they always turned to their substance of choice to calm their stress, they may feel compelled to return to it any time they feel stressed.
Decline in Mental Health
Mental health issues and addiction often go hand-in-hand. In order to effectively recover from an addiction, you must address the underlying mental health issues.
Exposure to Drugs or Alcohol
Attending events where drugs or alcohol are present can be a huge challenge for those in recovery. They may go into it feeling confident that they can handle it, but be underprepared for how to actually deal with the situation.
Not Prioritizing Your Recovery
In order to avoid relapse, you must continue to put your recovery first. This includes practicing self-care, and utilizing healthy coping mechanisms.
Why Are the Holidays So Hard for Recovering Addicts?
It’s understandable why the holiday season can be particularly challenging for people attempting to maintain their sobriety given the increased stress, exposure to triggers, and possibility of isolation and loneliness.
People often feel pressure to attend events and socialize with family, and there is also a lot of pressure to feel happy. They may also experience the fear of missing out if they are the only one at a party without a drink in their hand.
How to Manage Relapse Triggers
With all the triggers that arise during the holidays, it’s important to have a relapse prevention plan in place to help you stay on the recovery path.
Always plan ahead, especially for social situations. If you start to feel uncomfortable or tempted, it is perfectly okay to leave the party early. You may want to set a certain time that you will stay til, and have an excuse ready for leaving early.
It’s also a good idea to have an answer prepared for if you get offered a drink. Examples include, “I’m not drinking tonight,” or “I’m the designated driver.” In most cases, people won’t question your decision to not drink.
Practice Healthy Coping Mechanisms
It can be uncomfortable to sit with negative emotions without the help of drugs or alcohol, but these feelings will only escalate if you continue to avoid them.
It’s helpful to work with a therapist to uncover what coping mechanisms will work for you when uncomfortable situations or emotions arise.
Lean on Your Support System
Your support system might be your family, or a therapist, sponsor, or support group. Whoever it is, be sure to keep in touch with them over the holidays, and reach out to them whenever you need support.
Taking care of your mental and physical health is so important. Listen to your body, and take time to relax and be by yourself.
In order to fight off relapse triggers, you must be proactive in maintaining good mental health, which includes getting enough sleep, eating well, being active, and taking time to relax and self-reflect.
Have Someone Hold You Accountable
Have someone check in on you to keep you on the right track. An accountability partner can help you monitor your behavior and make you aware of potential triggers around you. Ultimately, they can help you stay honest with yourself and others.
What If I Relapse?
The fact that you are concerned about relapsing, shows that you are taking your recovery seriously! If you do experience a relapse during the holidays, don’t let this derail your entire recovery journey. Know that you are not alone, and that there is still hope.
Be Kind to Yourself
A relapse is not a failure – you have not lost everything that you have learned up until this point. Talking down to yourself will only make the situation worse. Shame is often what causes us to return to our addictive ways.
Identify What Caused the Relapse
Ask yourself what you can learn from this situation to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. What led to your relapse? Was it a trigger such as loneliness or the fear of missing out? Or was it overconfidence?
If you can pinpoint what led to your relapse, you can be that much more proactive about ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.
You are not alone in your recovery and your relapses. Many people who are now sober had to go through relapses in order to make it to where they are now. Connecting with others in recovery and hearing their experiences can be very beneficial.
You may also want to consider attending treatment again for a short amount of time, whether in an inpatient facility, or on an outpatient basis.
Get Support for Addiction Recovery
Whether you are new to recovery, or need some extra support during this time, we at Paramount are here for you. Our treatment center remains open during the holidays, and we encourage you to reach out to our addiction specialists if you need support.